Phelps commits to return in May

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Michael Phelps will swim in a meet in Charlotte in May, ending his three-month suspension for being photographed apparently smoking from a marijuana pipe.

Meet officials announced Tuesday that the Olympic great has committed to the Charlotte UltraSwim on May 14-17.

The Grand Prix event will be the first major meet for which Phelps is eligible, and first tuneup before July's world championships in Rome.

"Michael is focused on practicing and regaining the mental and physical momentum that he had achieved going into the Beijing Olympics," Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, said in a statement. "He is committed to a very demanding and rigorous training schedule as he prepares for upcoming meets and the FINA World Championships."

Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, but he was suspended by USA Swimming this month after a British tabloid published a photograph showing him with a marijuana pipe at a party in November at the University of South Carolina.

The 23-year-old Phelps apologized and called the suspension "fair." While he's returned to training in his hometown of Baltimore, the suspension put him behind his preparation for the world championships.

Phelps will be challenged in his May return in a field expected to be full of his U.S. Olympic teammates. Charlotte UltraSwim officials expect Cullen Jones, Mark Gangloff and Ryan Lochte to participate.

"Coming off of the unprecedented excitement of the 2008 Olympics, to be able to have so many recent gold medalists together again is simply outstanding," said David Marsh, the director of meet host SwimMAC.

Phelps last competed in the Charlotte meet in 2006, when he won five events and set two meet records.

SHERIFF FIRES BACK

COLUMBIA --- The South Carolina sheriff who investigated Michael Phelps after a photo emerged of the swimmer apparently smoking from a marijuana pipe is taking on critics with a dose of humor and sobering words.

Leon Lott donned a woman's wig, a bulletproof vest and medals for a speech Monday at a Rotary Club meeting where he poked fun at media reports of the probe and called for detractors to take "pot shots" at him.

Lott said he investigated Phelps because possible illegal actions cannot be ignored.


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